By Juliet Muzondo (Disability Rights Activist and Disability & Development Practitioner)
Zimbabwe joined the world in commemorating the International Day of Persons with Disabilities which is celebrated every third of December under different annual themes. The main aim of this day is to create awareness on Disability. The 2018 theme is “EMPOWERING PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND ENSURING INCLUSIVENESS AND EQUALITY”.
To achieve the milestones highlighted in this theme, we need to create and adopt empowering and inclusive Policies and Practices. Zimbabwe has different policies that are favourable and majority not so favourable to Inclusion of Persons with Disabilities in our communities, societies and national development processes and initiatives.
As the Disability movement, we are tasking our policy makers who include our Parliamentarians MPs and senators, our councillors and our business owners to create laws and policies that will meaningfully include and empower persons with disabilities in all spheres of life.
To the general public, the disability movement is tasking you to change your attitudes, beliefs and other discriminatory practices that exclude this important segment of our population. Let’s all embrace our diversity and appreciate the unique abilities in each one of us.
To all of us, both disabled and non-disabled, let us always remember that disability is not far from us. We will fall sick, get old, we may be involved in accidents or we will give birth to the children with disabilities. As individuals, we all have relatives, friends, church mates, colleagues or neighbours with disabilities, hence no one can safely say they are not affected by disabilities.
On a sad note though, it seems the IDPWD is not prioritised in our Zimbabwe National Agenda. Since inception of this day, and in recent memory, since ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with disabilities on 23 September 2013, Zimbabwe has never commemorated this day on 3 December, the Actual day. The 2017 National commemorations were done in Caledonia in early 2018 after several postponements and the 2018 commemorations are earmarked for 18 December in Manicaland. However, it is important to acknowledge the work that is being done by various disability organisations who are commemorating on the actual day, albeit in their small ways BUT it is important for the nation to prioritise this day in future.
My final word to all of us is, let us take this opportunity when we still can, to create an environment that will empower and include Persons with Disabilities who may be some of us in future. Because there is no guarantee that we will still be the same in future. In Shona we say, “Seka urema wafa”, hence the need to “MAKE HAY WHILE THE SUN STILL SHINES”.